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World Darts Championship: Michael Smith battles past Stephen Bunting | Dimitri Van den Bergh makes history

An out-of-sorts Michael Smith continued his hunt for a first world title with a hard-fought 5-3 win over Stephen Bunting; Dimitri Van den Bergh became the first Belgian player to reach the semis after overcoming Jonny Clayton 5-3

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The best of the action from the afternoon session of the quarter-finals at the World Darts Championship.

An out-of-sorts Michael Smith kept on course for a second-straight World Darts Championship final appearance as he saw off a determined challenge from Stephen Bunting in Sunday’s quarter-finals.

Smith, a beaten finalist in last year's tournament, eventually overcame the No 21 seed 5-3 to secure his place in the last four, joining history-maker Dimitri Van den Bergh after he had opened the day's proceedings at Alexandra Palace with victory by the same scoreline against Jonny Clayton.

Smith will now tackle either 2021 world champion Gerwyn Price or Gabriel Clemens in the semis, while Van den Bergh will face three-time world champion Michael van Gerwen or Chris Dobey, with the remaining quarter-finals taking place this evening live on Sky Sports.

Sunday, January 1 - Afternoon results

Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-3 Jonny Clayton (QF)
Michael Smith 5-3 Stephen Bunting (QF)

Sunday, January 1 - Evening matches

Gerwyn Price vs Gabriel Clemens (QF)
Michael van Gerwen vs Chris Dobey (QF)

Smith battles past Bunting

Smith's struggles were underlined by the fact he averaged a relatively paltry 91.63 compared to Bunting's 97.16, but his opponent was made to pay for missing 44 attempts at doubles for just a 21 per cent checkout success with Smith landing 16 of 34 double attempts.

It was evident from the opening set Smith was below the standard he had reached at times in this tournament yet did enough to take it 3-2 and establish an early lead. However, Bunting dished out some punishment to level the match by winning the second, sealing a 3-0 win with a sumptuous 160 checkout.

The 2014 Lakeside world champion made it four legs on the spin at the start of the third, but Smith punished him in legs two and three for some missed doubles and wrapped things up with a 61 checkout to go 2-1 in front.

The 32-year-old's finishing proved pivotal in the fourth set too even without hitting the heights in terms of scoring, establishing a two-set lead. Smith then reeled off three consecutive legs in the fifth to put himself one away from a return to the semi-finals.

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Michael Smith defeated Stephen Bunting to book his place in the semi-finals

Smith's run of winning six legs on the bounce was ended at the start of the sixth set as Bunting capitalised on some low-scoring visits from Smith, followed by taking the second as the Grand Slam title holder made a mess of needing 20.

Bunting then nailed a 44 checkout to get another set on the board and made it four legs in a row at the start of the seventh. Smith hit back in the next leg, but his fellow St Helens darter dominated the third and fourth to seal a 3-1 win and claw his way back to 4-3.

There was to be no memorable comeback from Bunting though despite his best efforts, with Smith eventually securing victory in a nervy leg which saw both players gamble on splitting finishes before the No 4 seed took out double 10.

"I just turned up so badly today, but I managed to grit it out," Smith told Sky Sports. "Don't get me wrong, Stephen missed a lot of doubles, but this is the quarter finals of the Worlds.

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Michael Smith feels Stephen Bunting let him off during their quarter-final

"I just had to tell myself 'Keep going, keep going, you are in the semi-finals'. I will keep going for that World Championship because that is what I want but I put too much pressure on myself then and it nearly cost everything.

"I didn't deserve that game.... but you take your chances when they are given to you and now, I am in the semi-finals."

Van den Bergh make history with win over Clayton

In the first of the day's quarter-finals, Van den Bergh made history by becoming the first Belgian to reach the last four of the PDC World Darts Championship as he saw off Clayton.

Former World Grand Prix and Premier League winner Clayton made short if unspectacular work of the first set as he blanked Van den Bergh 3-0, making it only the second set the Antwerp native had lost at this year's tournament.

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Dimitri Van den Bergh defeated Jonny Clayton to become the first Belgian to make it to the semi-finals of the World Championship.

Van den Bergh immediately responded with a 12-dart leg at the start of the second set though, going on to win the next two and level the match in a set where Clayton did not even manage to get a shot at a double.

It was level-pegging early in the third before Clayton edged ahead, retaking the lead in sets with a break of throw by taking out 25 for a 3-1 win with Van den Bergh stuck in the madhouse needing double one after he missed the final double of a 130 checkout which would have forced a decider.

Nevertheless, the 2020 World Matchplay champion was able to level the match again with a sweep in set four, only for Clayton to edge back in front by triumphing in a fifth-set decider having also nailed a 108 checkout earlier in the set.

Once again though, there proved nothing to separate the duo in the sixth and Van den Bergh ensured he remained on par with the Welshman by holding his throw in another deciding leg, followed by him taking the lead for the first time with a 3-1 win in the seventh.

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Dimitri Van den Bergh took the mic to speak to the crowd after hitting 13 180s in his 5-3 quarter-final win over Jonny Clayton.

The 28-year-old went ahead in the eight set too, but back-to-back misses at double top allowed Clayton to snatch two legs. However, Van den Bergh held his nerve to force a decider and seal his spot in the last four.

"I don't know how I feel, but everyone here is part of history," Van den Bergh said in an impassioned post-match speech. "The first time a Belgian professional darts player is in the semi-finals - I am dead proud.

"I am a young guy, I keep my feet on the ground and I get a whole lot of onto the next round. From now on, I'm getting ready for that semi-final, and it doesn't matter who it is [against]. I'm a dream-maker and I've got a dream."

Watch Gerwyn Price vs Gabriel Clemens and Michael van Gerwen vs Chris Dobey for the remaining places in the semi-finals, live on Sky Sports Darts and Main Event from 7.30pm.

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